Junior women's preview: Gorecka looking to retain the title | 07.12.2012
|Defending junior champion Emelia Gorecka of Great Britain.
Gorecka made a break at the far side of the course on the final long lap, but she was closely followed by Jennifer Walsh and Jessica Judd as they came back into sight in the main section of the park.
Her lead of five seconds soon appeared vulnerable as Walsh chased hard into the penultimate straight and closed the gap to almost nothing, but Gorecka won in 15:18 from Walsh who was credited with the same time (15:18), with Judd in third (15:28).
"I pulled away on the back loop but it was hard to make a decisive move," said Gorecka, IAAF World junior 3000m bronze medallist. "In fact, it wasn't so much a break, but more of a small move forward! It was hard to get clear, it was so muddy, but we were all in the same position.
"This age group has got a lot stronger and it was good to have a tough competition out there. It's all looking positive for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and I'm really happy with that."
Walsh - an IAAF World Junior 1500m finalist this summer - was delighted with her performance in second: "I obviously came here hoping to make the team but to finish so close to Emelia is brilliant and gives me so much confidence."
The remaining automatic qualifying spots for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team went to Annabel Mason (15:37) in fourth, Rhona Auckland in fifth (15:41) and Alex Clay in sixth (15:44).
The team race in Velenje was close with only three points separating the victorious British from the Russians who are led this time by Alena Kudashkina and Evdokia Bukina.
Kudashkina lies second behind leader Gorecka on the continental rankings at 5000m with her 15:45.80 set when winning her national title, but the British woman is 11 seconds faster over the distance. Kudashkina finished sixth in the world junior 5000m this year.
Bykina meanwhile leads the European steeplechase lists with her national junior record of 9:56.46 set when finishing fourth at the world junior championships this summer.
Just behind Bykina in the standings is Oona Kettunen of Finland who is her country's sole junior woman representative in Budapest. Kettunen also set a national junior steeplechase record by dipping under 10mins. A prolific racer, Kettunen has set no fewer than 11 lifetime bests this year, including a 78:05 half marathon.
Gorecka is not the only medallist from 2011 who is returning. Bronze medallist last year, Amela Terzič of Serbia, will be hoping to unseat the Briton. Double European junior champion on the track, Terzič pocketed silver over 1500m this year at the world juniors.
Germany packed well last year to snap up team bronze and Maya Rehberg, who was 10th overall, is hoping to at least repeat that feat. Rehberg, sixth in the world junior steeplechase in the summer, is not so optimistic for a medal in the team standings however. Without Gesa Felicitas Krause who was ninth in Velenje, Rehberg is forecasting anything from third to sixth for the team. On an individual level she considers Gorecka unbeatable.
National cross country champion, Mariya Hodakyvska, leads a Ukrainian quartet that will hopefully finish a team this year. 12th individual last year, Hodakyvska won the national 3000m track title in a personal best time of 9:17.64 for third on the European rankings.
Just out of the medals in Velenje, Romania is led by national 5000m junior champion, Monica Florea, who finished seventh in the world juniors at that distance. In her two appearances to date at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships, Florea has progressed from 45th to 14th and is targeting a top ten finish.
The Netherlands two best entrants are Irene van Lieshout and Jip Vastenberg who lie fifth and sixth on the continental rankings for 5000m in 2012. Van Lieshout was 45th last year while Vastenburg was 26th but both could aspire to finishing closer to the top ten than that.